Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday May 16, 2012

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By Dave Dykes                                                                              CLICK ON PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

Happy Wednesday! That means the work-week is on the run, and it’s time to offer-up another varied selection of photographic treasures racing-style. Special thanks to our good friend & Webmaster Tom Ormsby for donating the majority of this week’s images for all of us to enjoy. As-always, have a great rest-of-the-week! Email reaches me at foreveryounginct@gmail.com                       

NOTE: We have now put a comment box at the end of the web site. Please feel free to leave your comments.

Wednesday Means More Modified Memories….       

This shot captures Bobby Rich at Connecticut’s former West Haven Speedway. Rich was one a top-competitor at the track fondly recalled by locals as “The Rock” (a nod to the adjacent Savin Rock amusement park). It was an oddly-shaped 1/5-mile oval set within the confines of a baseball stadium and one of a number of raceways sanctioned by the once-powerful United Stock Car Racing Club led by the Tattersall family. Like so many other New England speedways that flourished during the years following World War II, West Haven succumbed to rising property values and the urban renewal movement of the 1960s. (Photo Courtesy Tom Ormsby).

Here’s a neat 70s-era color shot of Plainville Stadium competitor, Bob Vivari. A big-winner at the The Stadium’ for many seasons, he was one of the first at the late Connecticut ¼-miler to successfully campaign a Modified sporting “late model” sheet-metal. Previous to the Pinto pictured here, Vivari’s mount sported a Chevy II body, rather unique in a field that overwhelmingly consisted of the more traditional Coupes n’ Coaches of the day. (Photo Courtesy Tom Ormsby).                  

Here’s a nice one from the former (and much-missed), Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Massachusetts. Before NASCAR developed a relationship with New England short track racing, Harvey Tattersall’s United Stock Car Club circuit was THE place to be if you wanted to run with the best in region. The Park’ was considered their premier speed palace. Captured here in the 1960s, Charlie Brayton scored a career-total of 6 feature triumphs at Riverside, the first on August 18, 1962, his final on May 22, 1966. (Photo Courtesy Tom Ormsby).             

The gentleman you see behind the controls of this positively-classic coupe is “Big Ed” Patnode, and his accomplishments in the sport loom as large as his legendary stature. At Riverside Park he was truly one of United’s brightest stars, recording twenty-seven feature victories and a pair of championships at the late Massachusetts oval, which was the flagship venue of the powerful Tattersall/United promotional dynasty. (Photo Courtesy Tom Ormsby)        

Here’s another image from the formative years of Connecticut’s former Plainville Stadium. George Clark was one of the best at Joe Tinty’s racy little ¼-miler during the much-heralded “Coupe Era.” We’re not-sure of how-many features George scored, as Plainville records are sketchy at-best. However, a scan of our collection of early copies of Illustrated Speedway News indicates that he was quite the racer during his era. In later years, George became a NASCAR official. (Photo Courtesy Tom Ormsby).

Captured here following a feature win at Plainville Stadium during the 1953 campaign when he was the chauffer of the Gaudiani #99 cut-down, popular Joe Paleski was also a main event winner on the United circuit at Riverside Park where he scored a total of 4 features between 1954-1959. (Photo Courtesy Tom Ormsby).     

One of the real pioneers of the New England Modified scene, Buddy Krebs was simply among the greatest racers to ever strap-in behind the wheel, especially at Massachusetts’  late Riverside Park Speedway as captured here. Inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2000, Krebs started racing in 1947, and before it was over, won an estimated two-hundred features while competing in Modifieds, Sportsman, and Grand Nationals. Among his accomplishments were six Riverside 500 victories – a record never broken. Known primarily for his feats during the Tattersall/United era, he won at virtually all the tracks that once dotted the New England landscape including the late Plainville and Candlelight Stadiums in Connecticut, and Millers Falls and Westboro Speedways in Massachusetts. A founding member of the New England Antique Racers, Buddy passed-away in January of 2006 at 74. (Photo Courtesy Tom Ormsby).            

Plainville Stadium could be a tough-joint, and skirmishes were frequent on the flat little Connecticut ¼-miler. This classic early-1970s image at “Tinty’s Place” captures the #22 of Nick Nickerson, “Lil' Dan” Gaudioso in the potent Sharkey #4 coupe, and Bill Brown in his #100 coach mixing-it-up “Stadium-Style.” (Photo Courtesy Tom Ormsby).

While it was a short oval, Plainville could pack a wicked-punch for those drivers that got on the bad-side of her. See here reeling after an impact is Skip Ziegler in his familiar #126 coach. In the hat & red jacket on the left is New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member the late “Moneybags Moe” Gherzi, who at the conclusion of his accomplished racing career became the longtime Racing Director at Plainville. Also behind Moe in the white driving suit is another of the greats, Elton Hill. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

Nicky Porto remains one of the best to have ever-competed at Plainville Stadium. Another driver that spent the formative years of his career competing at West Haven Speedway where he snared multiple victories, his reign at Plainville was nothing-less than spectacular. Leaving the local scene for a brief period in the mid-70’s, he headed to Riverside Park during what was arguably one of that track's most-competitive eras becoming an almost instant feature winner (May 17, 1975 to be-exact). Porto later returned-home to “Tinty’s Place” picking-up where he’d left-off as a winner. (Phil Hoyt Photo).                

BONUS SHOT: Another Saturday night, another win….. Most-certainly a star at Plainville Stadium but also one of the best in New England, period. Ronnie Wyckoff remains in this scribes opinion, one of the most overlooked and underrated drivers in New England Modified racing history. In addition to his many triumphs close to home at Plainville, he’s a multi-time co-winner of the Riverside Park Speedway’s 500-lap contests. Always in-demand with the top car owners of his era, the teams that the affable Wyckoff drove-for during his long-career reads like a “who’s-who” of the sport. As captured here in the Bill Zenobi owned % during an early Plainville triumph, he always did it with a smile – he remains the same today. (Phil Hoyt Photo).    

That's it for this week. Email me at:

This Weeks Comments

(2 days ago) Tom Ormsby said:

It is Paleski. I've been told he used to keep a bottle of booze in the car. I think this is a photo taken at Riverside and not Plainville.

(2 days ago) Al Fini said:

Maybe I got it wrong but I hought it was Paleski not palenski at the Park. Also great shot of George Clark. I didn't realize son Eddie was a dead ringer at a similar age.

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